Tuesday, 18 December 2007
‘A Sword From Red Ice’ – J.V.Jones (Orbit Books)
It’s been a few years since the last instalment of ‘The Sword of Shadows’ series and it’s felt like it’s taken more than a few years to read ‘A Sword from Red Ice’! There’s a lot of catching up to do which means that there’s a lot of story to be retold and many familiar faces to revisit…
The first two books set up some pretty elaborate plot threads and these are continued with varying degrees of closure. Ash March continues to discover her powers, as the ‘Reach’, but must break free of a trap that is sprung around her. While this is happening, our ‘hero’ Raif Severance fights long and hard to prove to himself that he is capable of keeping true to just oath (having broken all others). His journey will take him in search of a sword that will help protect his people and fight against the menace from the Rift… It’s not just all about Raif and Ash though; we get to meet Vaylo Bludd, Raina BlackHail and Marafice Eye amongst others.
While this book was, on the whole, an enjoyable read it was also hard going and a real chore in places. In fact I almost gave up on it in several places, which was a shame as I’d really been looking forward to it. The ‘Sword of Shadows’ books are one of those series that demands your full attention and does an exceptional job of placing the reader right in the middle of the story. ‘A Sword from Red Ice’ is no exception. I really felt that I was there questing with Raif or sharing Vaylo Bludd’s struggle to protect his grandchildren. Some of the battles are visually stunning (the Siege of Ganmiddich for starters) and it makes for great reading that a skirmish between small groups receives the same level of attention as a fight between thousands. For such a large book there is a strong sense of progression and Jones is not afraid to send her story down dark paths in order to get the results she desires. I’m looking forward to the next chapter on the strength of this book.
So why did I have such trouble finishing this book? Two reasons. As I’ve already said, this is a thick book with plenty to get through and take on board. It felt at times as if Jones felt the need to tell everyone’s story to make up for the time it took to publish this book. There were times when I got lost trying to keep track of everyone, especially when you don’t see them for a couple of hundred pages. One character only appeared in the second and final chapters and I completely forgot about him for the rest of the time. It was almost like he had been placed there just to remind us he was still around. Because of things like this, the story sometimes felt unwieldy and difficult to get into. The other reason is more down to my personal tastes. In a book containing multiple points of view you’re never going to like every single one. I couldn’t stand the chapters about Effie Severance, they didn’t serve any purpose for me and just felt like they were markers so we wouldn’t forget about her. These chapters were the main reason why I kept putting the book down and reading other stuff.
I think ‘A Sword from Red Ice’ is a transitional novel that bridges a lot of gaps and will feel like a more cohesive read when the next book in the series is released. I enjoyed it but there were some particularly frustrating elements that, on occasion, spoilt it for me. Like I said though, I’m still looking forward to the next book in the series.
Seven out of Ten (just that little bit too good to be a ‘Six’)